Disclaimer: All characters belong to JK Rowling. No money, fame, glory etc are made from this story whatsoever. It is nothing more than a tribute and expression of my admiration of the world that is Harry Potter and the characters within, especially a certain snarky Potions master...
AN: Every chapter deserves a "thank you" to my beta, Ariadne. May she always be happy to be paid with sneak peeks at my work. It certainly is free. ;-)
"Oh, Hermione," Minerva laughed. "Do you know how many times Poppy has wished she could take things into her own hands? He is a stubborn one, but I doubt you'd be able to get one over on him, injured or not."
She observed the look on Hermione's face and said thoughtfully, "You know, I do believe that you and Severus could have something special together, in time."
Hermione felt as if she had been found out, that the confusion she felt over the odd feelings and unbelievably strange silences she had endured that day must be plainly visible on her face. Minerva studied her with a knowing smile.
"Oh, don't look at me like that. You may not see it now, but you two have quite a lot in common from a personality point of view. As I have said before, Severus is a complex soul who’s been through quite a lot. He’ll require a fair amount of coaxing to come out from behind his well-built facade.”
Minerva rose and gazed around the office. Sighing, she said with a nod, “In the end, Severus is just a man with all the faults that go along with that misfortune.”
She returned Hermione’s warm grin, saying, “Let things move at their own pace, Hermione. If it’s meant to be, he will come to you. A man like Severus will need to make his own destiny.”
Hermione didn't really want this surreal conversation to continue, so she nodded.
“Is there something else?” Minerva asked.
Hermione's mind drifted back to the duel. “Yes - it’s just - when they fought, it was as if Professor Snape was training Harry.”
Hermione's face held an expression of sadness and concern. She tried to choose her words carefully. “I don’t know how prepared Harry is for a duel with Voldemort if he can’t control his emotions. Professor Snape had him completely unnerved and even dangled him up in the air. Every spell was nonverbal.”
Minerva gazed at Hermione and considered for a moment before saying, “Hermione, the similarities between Severus and Voldemort have not gone unnoticed.”
At Hermione’s shocked look, she continued, “No, Hermione, I am referring to his talents and relationship to Harry. Severus is a very powerful wizard, even at this age. He is a very skilled Occlumens and Legilimens, as you know. Most importantly, Harry hates him with a passion.”
“I think a discussion with Severus is in order.”
Hermione and Minerva returned to find Severus lounging in an old leather chair, his back to them. He seemed unaware of their presence as he looked towards the windows. Books were performing lazy circles and complex patterns in the air, weaving in and out, barely missing each other. Every few seconds, another book flew off the shelf and joined the rest, creating its own pattern in the mix without interfering with the others. At least twenty books comprised the growing cloud, moving in a silent dance. They beat their covers like wings, angling to orchestrate perfect turns, the sound of their softly fluttering pages filling the air.
Minerva started forward, but Hermione stopped her and pointed out something. Not only were both of Severus’ hands resting on the armrests of the chair, his wand was, indeed, on the table.
An incredible display of wandless magic, Minerva thought in amazement.
They stared in wonder as he added even more books to the mix. He raised his hand, and the books immediately swirled upwards, following a cyclone pattern. He tilted his head up, watching them perform their dance.
“Enjoying the show?” Severus said suddenly, startling the two witches.
“I apologize, Severus, it’s just what you were doing was---” Minerva began.
“Was what?” he asked, regarding them with suspicion. As he lowered his hand, the books obediently floated in an orderly fashion back to their places. Hermione noticed they were even in alphabetical order.
“Severus, you must know that performing wandless magic, in itself, is impressive, but that type of display requires great talent,” Minerva said, clearly impressed.
Severus snorted and waved Minerva's compliment away. “It’s nothing more than a juggling act I played in school to pass the time.”
“You did this in school? What year did you start?” Hermione asked.
Severus looked both surprised and suspicious at the attention to his game. “Second year, I suppose. Why?”
Minerva and Hermione took a seat on the couch, looking at him with great interest. Severus, on the other hand, had no interest in being stared at so closely and turned defensive.
“What is so interesting? It’s just a useless game,” he said, glaring, with his arms crossed.
Can't just accept a compliment, can you? Hermione thought.
Severus' eyes swept to her.
Her heart seized. Can he? No...
He was still watching her. Something told her he could at least pick up feelings, even without casting the spell. She tried to look at Minerva without catching Severus' eyes again. Somehow, he was able to both keep Minerva engaged and disguise the fact that he was terrorizing Hermione by glancing at her for split moments in time.
Hermione found some measure of relief by staring at the bookshelf. She nodded in agreement, even though she wasn't really hearing what Minerva was saying. They could be discussing shipping Harry off to Romania to live with dragons for all she knew. Still, he watched her, daring her to acknowledge him.
Finally, she angrily met his eyes, telling him to quit it.
Faint traces of amusement and victory spread across his face, infuriating her.
"Severus, are you listening?" Minerva asked irritably.
"Of course, Minerva," he drawled, "You said you had come to discuss something with me concerning Potter. Particularly the altercation, as you so eloquently put it, that occurred today. I believe you were expressing frustration with his actions."
Somehow, Hermione managed to not laugh. He must have been amazingly sneaky in school.
Minerva eyed him suspiciously before shaking her head and moving on. "As you know, he has yet to gain control over his emotions, and so, when challenged, fights on pure instincts. From Hermione’s account of the altercation, the more you taunted him, the more he lost control.”
“Arrogant prat thinks he can just attack anyone he pleases. We should all fear if we are resting our hopes on Potter.”
“Exactly, Severus. Even though Harry is growing to be a powerful wizard, his emotions are a major weakness. His hatred towards you clearly put him at a disadvantage, allowing you to easily defeat him, even when wounded. In light of this, I feel that it would be beneficial if, when you are well, you were to duel with Harry. In a safe environment, of course.”
Severus leaned back in the chair and looked into the fireplace, contemplating her suggestion.
Minerva pressed further, stating, “Severus, I needn’t remind you of your Vow. I know this request is stretching the boundaries. However, I do believe that helping Harry to defeat Voldemort is in all of our best interests. Don’t you agree?”
His first reaction was anger at the expectation that he try to share knowledge with such arrogant prat, but then contemplated further. Yes, this may be quite enjoyable. He is growing arrogant, just like his father, and needs to be taken down a few notches. As it stands now, the Dark Lord will kill him easily.
He said while trying to suppress a smirk, “Why, Minerva, I’d love to. We will start tonight. Potter has proven that he cannot best me even while I’m lying in bed. I hardly think that my injuries are of any consequence. The Dark Lord is not going to wait much longer, and getting Potter up to par will take time,” he said, both sneering at Harry’s lack of abilities and proud of how he had leisurely fended him off. A devilish grin spread across his face. “We will use the Great Hall. There is more room, and fewer things to destroy.”
Minerva was uneasy about the look in Severus’ eyes. Taking a deep breath, she said, “Agreed. However, there will need to be rules. You cannot simply attack Harry out of your own dislike for him or his father. Your feelings are well known, and I am confident that you will keep them in check.”
“Of course, Minerva, of course,” he said innocently.
A chill ran though Hermione when she observed Severus’ eyes come alive at the opportunity to duel with Harry. She feared that Severus’ past with Harry’s father would cause him to take his aggressions out on him. His temper was positively terrifying and easily piqued when dealing with Harry. Her thoughts then somehow wandered completely off track to how incredibly attractive he was when planning something so positively wrong.
She loved Harry as her best friend, but it was true; he was becoming far too sure of himself. He was definitely too emotional to face Voldemort if a little teasing could send him over the edge. Unfortunately, Severus was just what he needed. As long as this doesn’t destroy them both.
“Harry, try to keep your emotions in check. Even in his weakened state, Severus is a very skilled and powerful wizard. He has agreed to not practice Legilimency, but cannot help himself from detecting your emotions. Later on in your training, Severus will, in fact, use all of his skills against you, understood?” Minerva asked Harry, clearly worried about what was to come.
Severus sat near the High Table, his wounded leg resting comfortably on another chair. He stared intensely at Harry as Minerva spoke quietly to him. Since his juggling act apparently was both interesting and unnerving, he had enchanted goblets to leapfrog across the table, knowing that Harry could plainly see that Minerva had his wand. He could sense a slight amount of fear coming from Harry as he entered the room, but so far he was doing an excellent job at keeping it under control. Hatred, however? Yes, that particular emotion was rolling off of him in waves.
Severus scowled at the sight of Tonks and Remus taking their seats along the side of the Hall, then watched the goblets complete another lap around the table.
Minerva announced, “Rules of this engagement are as follows: All spells are allowed with the exception, of course, of the Killing Curse. Severus has also agreed not to practice Legilimency. Madam Pomfrey is here to heal if needed. Since this is the first duel, either party may call it off at any time. In the future, there will be no end until one of you is incapacitated.”
“Ready, Severus?” she asked, handing him his wand.
Scowling, Severus said, “Always.”
“Yes, Headmistress,” Harry said, staring at Severus with complete hatred.
“Alright, then... begin,” she announced, stepping quickly out of the way.
Severus swung his wand a split-second after the last syllable died on Minerva's lips, sending a spell to slam Harry square in the chest. Severus casually leaned back in his chair for a moment, then released the spell, leaving Harry panting on the floor. Hermione glanced at Minerva to find her looking down with a look of desperation on her face. She imagined that she, too, was trying to keep from interfering. Tonks and Remus both looked vengeful.
“Potter, do you think this is a joke?” Severus taunted as Harry tried to catch his breath on the stone floor. “In the time you have laid there, I could have killed you a thousand times! Now, get up and fight me!”
Harry glared at Severus with pure rage. He shoved himself to his feet, screaming, "Stupefy!"
Severus blocked the spell wordlessly, neither moving from his position, nor even registering on his face that anything was happening.
“Expelliarmus!” Harry tried again, now striding towards Severus. Severus' face, however, still held an expression like he could be taking his afternoon tea at that moment. The spell was again rebounded back, bouncing off the floor and to the ceiling. Stone fragments rained down, creating a light cloud of dust between them.
Severus grinned, which only served to infuriate Harry more.
Harry was about to cast again when Severus moved his wand slightly, cutting Harry’s wand arm. He lurched sideways in surprise, clutching his arm to his chest. Madam Pomfrey rushed forward, but Minerva put her hand on her arm saying, “Only if Harry asks, Poppy.” Poppy looked stricken, but nodded.
“Potter, do you think you have the leisure to allow any time whatsoever to pass between attacks? Think this is a waltz, do you?” Severus mocked, looking triumphant. “Ready to give, Potter?” he said, in a more academic voice.
“NO!” Harry roared, then yelled, “Sectumsempra!” He appeared to pour all of his hatred into the spell.
Severus’ eyes widened. He silently blocked the spell, but failed to take care in how it was deflected. The spell flew down the aisle, hit the floor just short of where Harry stood, then bounced upward, spiraling to the right. It continued through one of the windows, exploding glass and tearing a nearby banner and torch from the wall.
“That just may be passable for effort. However, you'd do well not to use my own spells against me,” Severus warned, ignoring Harry's approach. He glanced at Hermione for a moment, observing the concern on her face.
“Petrificus Totalus!” Harry cried, this time giving no indication he was going to cast a spell.
Severus was caught off guard, but still blocked the spell. It screamed towards where everyone was gathered, hitting the wall just above Hermione and blasting stone all around her. She threw herself to the side, scrambling to avoid the falling debris.
Severus thrust himself to his feet, threw down his wand, and pointed at one of the tables pushed aside for the duel. Severus then made a grand, sweeping motion using both arms. The heavy table rose sharply into the air, swung sideways, and flew across the room. It picked up speed and corrected its flight to slam into Harry, throwing him more than ten feet away.
“Enough!” Minerva shouted, calling both of their wands to her.
Showing no concern, Severus sat down again. Remus began to levitate the table off of Harry, and Poppy's face held a pained expression as she quickly set to work on his arm.
Hermione slowly approached Severus.
To anyone else, he would have appeared to be in deep thought. On closer inspection, Hermione could see his hands gripping the arms of the chair.
When he made no acknowledgment of her, she knelt in front of him. “Sir?”
“Aren’t you going to see how the Golden Boy is?” he said bitterly without looking at her.
Hermione glanced over to see them helping Harry up. “He looks like he'll be fine to me. I’m more concerned about you. Why did you throw your wand? Harry could have done anything to you.”
“You really wish to know?” He tilted his head in an attempt to shield their conversation from the others.
“Yes, I do.”
“When I saw you almost injured, for a split-second I saw James standing there and---" he trailed off.
“Yes?” Hermione whispered.
“For a moment I came very close to killing him, and that, of course, is certain suicide. I threw my wand to protect both of us.”